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COMPARE CMU MSCF (NYC) vs Columbia MSFE (Econ) vs. Columbia MSFE (Eng)

Which of the following:

  • CMU MSCF

    Votes: 44 66.7%
  • Columbia MSFE (Econ)

    Votes: 8 12.1%
  • Columbia MSFE (Eng)

    Votes: 14 21.2%

  • Total voters
    66
I have a math background, BA and MA from a small US university. I have exposure to stochastic calculus at the level of Shreve 2, and research/writing for my MA thesis has allowed me to get exposure at a more intermediate level through the first few chapters of Shreve & Karatzas, Revuz & Yor, etc. While my knowledge of the subject is largely in a pure math setting, through Shreve 2 + some books from the CRC financial math series I’ve gained some understanding of how stochastic analytic techniques are applied in finance. I’ve taken PDEs, ODEs, 1st course in mathematical stats, linear algebra, optimization, etc. — feel well-prepared so far as math/stats goes. My programming background is confined to the intro C++ course here on QuantNet — I have messed around with Python/R, but nothing substantial. I have no quant-related work experience — most relevant experience is an internship I had for ~2 years at a private markets placement agent during my BA. My post-grad career goal is to work in quantitative research focused on credit/fixed income, either sell-side or buy-side at the start — long-term, I’m interested in working at a “quantamental” private credit general partner.

Given my lacking industry experience, I have recently been favoring CMU because of their career services. Despite this, I find myself going back and forth almost every day and I have finally caved and decided to post. I’ve only been admitted to the MSFE (Eng) at Columbia. I’ve interviewed for both CMU MSCF and Columbia MSFE (Econ). I’m posting in hopes of receiving some advice or comments on which of the 3 you feel I’d be most fit for — no worries if you just want to vote.
 
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Definitely not fin econ if you don't have prior industry experience
I do have industry experience, just nothing extensive and in a non-quant role. I know your interviewer seemed to think MSFE (Econ) students are on their own so far as fielding internship/job opportunities go, but what else is contributing to this conclusion? Under the Career Management Center header here Career Support | Columbia Business School Academics it seems that tailored support is provided.
 
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three data points

1. my interviewer

2. Columbia MS Financial Economics - Overview
see the first post here, the OP (a graduate from the program) also talks about the career services there.

3. During the information session they also mentioned that most placements happen through professors/faculty connections, which sounds like a fancy way of saying you'll get it on your own because (this is going to sound extremely cynical, and I'm open to being 1000% wrong) I doubt faculty are going to spend a ton of time (they'll probably help out a bit) helping students get jobs, it's not their main ask and given they're professors in CBS, they're probably extremely busy to begin with.

2 of them are fairly concrete, third one is open to interpretation;

The main point is- yeah, you'll have access to CBS's broader resources, but you're sharing that with all the other masters programs + MBA students, unlike other programs (i.e. CMU, MIT I believe) you're not going to be having tailored career fairs specifically for the program, or staff spending day in day out (as with Princeton) to get you the buy side research job you're looking for. If that's enough for you, then it's probably the best program out of the 3 you listed.

Based off the curriculum, and as I'm currently working as a quant researcher at a buy side firm, I think this will prepare you the most for the role. That being said, you'll have to network yourself / work a bit more to get those interviews, then you might at another school. Again, I'm not in the program nor have I gotten in, so I could be 100% wrong, just my two cents based on talking to people / reading online
 
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three data points

1. my interviewer

2. Columbia MS Financial Economics - Overview
see the first post here, the OP (a graduate from the program) also talks about the career services there.

3. During the information session they also mentioned that most placements happen through professors/faculty connections, which sounds like a fancy way of saying you'll get it on your own because (this is going to sound extremely cynical, and I'm open to being 1000% wrong) I doubt faculty are going to spend a ton of time (they'll probably help out a bit) helping students get jobs, it's not their main ask and given they're professors in CBS, they're probably extremely busy to begin with.

2 of them are fairly concrete, third one is open to interpretation;

The main point is- yeah, you'll have access to CBS's broader resources, but you're sharing that with all the other masters programs + MBA students, unlike other programs (i.e. CMU, MIT I believe) you're not going to be having tailored career fairs specifically for the program, or staff spending day in day out (as with Princeton) to get you the buy side research job you're looking for. Again, I'm not in the program nor have I gotten in, so I could be 100% wrong, just my two cents based on talking to people / reading online
This is really helpful. What you mention in your second to last paragraph has probably been what, at least so far as what I’m basing my decision on, I’ve seen as the biggest negative for the MSFE (Econ). The information on their website is misleading in the sense that it comes off as though the career services team is going to take up an active interest in what positions you are targeting and then work towards that target. Yeah, there’s only 20-30 students in the program, but CBS has a large MBA cohort and so to think MSFE (Econ) students get specialized support is probably a little naive on my part.
 
Agreed. To be honest, I still think it’s the best program for someone trying to be a quantitative researcher over a quantitative trader. While with the other two programs you listed, you are going to have an easier time with recruiting, you’ll probably ( at least to start with) be more on the implementation / trading side rather than pure modeling (probably because those programs do a good job of providing breadth of knowledge, not necessarily expertise). With fin-econ, you’ll get the subject matter expertise + research experience needed to jump straight to a research role. Both are fulfilling roles, so depends on what you want your career outcome to be.

source for this: what placements out of MfE programs look like at my firm
 
Agreed. To be honest, I still think it’s the best program for someone trying to be a quantitative researcher over a quantitative trader. While with the other two programs you listed, you are going to have an easier time with recruiting, you’ll probably ( at least to start with) be more on the implementation / trading side rather than pure modeling (probably because those programs do a good job of providing breadth of knowledge, not necessarily expertise). With fin-econ, you’ll get the subject matter expertise + research experience needed to jump straight to a research role. Both are fulfilling roles, so depends on what you want your career outcome to be.

source for this: what placements out of MfE programs look like at my firm
I'm far more interested in research roles. I want to be working in the "design stage" so to speak, e.g. strategy construction, model selection, etc. While I may enjoy implementation/trading roles at first, I think in the long run it would not be sufficiently satisfying (at least from my current pov) for me. Quant research/portfolio management at a private credit GP is what I want to be doing 12-15 years down the line.
 
I am wondering which of these programs would have the best finance education? I'm interested in learning more about finance and econometrics. Thanks!
 
I am wondering which of these programs would have the best finance education? I'm interested in learning more about finance and econometrics. Thanks!
I would say the MSFE (Econ) at Columbia has the other two beat for this. That said, I think the other two are pretty solid here also.
 
what about the comparison between the other two?
I think I would say CMU. If you compare the programs’ coursework, I think you’ll find that CMU focuses more on building students’ finance knowledge. Through the pre-program MSCF prep in August along with the first two minis you take courses in financial markets, investments, fixed income, and options (I’m excluding the asset pricing course in mini 2 because the listed reference text is Shreve 1 and so this class (please correct me if I’m wrong) I’m assuming focuses a little more on the underlying mathematics whereas the 4 courses I mentioned above seem to focus on introducing finance). On the surface, it doesn’t seem Columbia MSFE (Eng) has any such courses. I think where Columbia MSFE (Eng) has an edge over CMU as far as finance courses goes is with electives. With the MSFE (Eng) you have more customizability than with CMU, and in my opinion there are some pretty bad ass finance electives.

I would say it depends on how much exposure to finance you have. Nonetheless, I still don’t think it is clear-cut and imo it really comes down to personal preferences.
 
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I've come across this before, but it has been a while. Thank you for the correction. Pretty sweet that Dr. Haugh would do a lecture on real options, I wish he was still at Columbia.
Did you make a final decision? I am still choosing between CMU and Columbia Fin Econ.
 
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